Hummingbird Central

Rufous Hummingbird

Common Name
Rufous Hummingbird
Scientific Name
Selasphorus rufus
3 1/2" - 3 3/4"
Male Rufous Hummingbirds average 3.2 g, females 3.4 g.
Abundant migrant in the Western U.S.

Characteristics and Identification

No other North American hummingbird has a rufous back. They are fiercely territorial, feisty, and are perhaps the most aggressive hummingbird.

It is a fairly small, slender hummingbird with a nearly straight medium-length black bill and a tail that tapers to a point when folded. The body is overall rufous.

Male has a orange-red gorget, rufous, reddish brown back, tail and sides.

Female has rusty sides and undertail coverts. Females and immatures are similar to Allen's hummingbird, the larger Broad-Tailed and the smaller Calliope.

Rufous hummingbirds breed in southern Alaska, western Canada and the Pacific Northwestern states of Washington and Oregon.

The female builds the nest about 1.5" in diameter from plant down, fibers, flower petals and bud scales. The eggs are white, and unmarked. The clutch size is normally 2, with an incubation period of 15-17 days.

Comparison of the Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds

Rufous Hummingbird Migration

The spring migration north from Mexico is through the Pacific states, and the fall migration south is through the Rocky Mountains.

During migration, they can be found in mountain meadows as high as 12,000 feet. Winter habitat in Mexico and southern Texas includes shrubby openings and oak-pine forests at middle to high elevation. It is also a somewhat rare visitor to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast during winter.

Migration paths of the Rufous can span over 3,000 miles.

The map below shows the approximate migration and breeding ranges  of the Rufous Hummingbird in North America.

Actual ranges vary from year to year and can depend on a number of weather-related conditions and other environmental factors. Periodic Rufous sightings in winter are made along the U.S. Gulf Coast, and even into areas like South Carolina and Tennessee.

Map showing the approximate migration and breeding ranges of the Rufous Hummingbird in North America


Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Source: Author's archives

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird


Comparison of a Rufous Hummingbird (R) with a Ruby-Throat Hummingbird (L) (Author's Archive)
Rufous Hummingbird (R) sharing a feeder with a Ruby-Throat Hummingbird (L) (August, 2015)

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird


Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird